This week, a bill that would jail and fine first responders who share photographs of accident scenes was moved up to the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Assembly Bill 2655, written by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), specifically notes that sharing a photo of a body from a crime scene or an autopsy “for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose” would be made illegal. Those guilty would face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
AB 2655 was first written earlier this year by Assemblyman Gipson in response to the helicopter crash which killed retired basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in Calabasas on January 26th. Some first responders on the scene took photographs of the accident and subsequently posted them online. While the full extent of the incident was unknown for weeks afterwards, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed in March that 8 LA County deputies had shared graphic photos of the crash. While there is a policy in place on taking and sharing photos, it did not at the time apply to accident scenes.
Villanueva immediately ordered all deputies to delete any crime scene photos off their phones at once, but by then the Bryant family and the families of the others onboard shared grief and outrage at the photos even being taken in the first place, let alone shared with others.
“We’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable,” said Villanueva at a March press conference. “I mean, people are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. To have that on top of what they’ve already gone through is unconscionable. And, to think any member of our department would be involved in that.”
While investigations to the photo incident are currently ongoing, AB 2655 is now potentially in place to to make such an incident against the law statewide.
“Our first responders, when responding to an emergency, should not be taking very sensitive photographs for their own gain, for their own pleasure,” said Assemblyman Gipson of the incident. “It was unconscionable. It’s not right.”
The bill is expected to be approved both in Assembly and Senate Committees as well as both houses at large. AB 2655 has received bipartisan support with prominent members of both parties both denouncing the photo incident in January and announcing their support for the bill.
“This isn’t politically charged at all,” noted ‘Dana’, who works at the Capitol Building. “Even lawmakers who generally support law enforcement bills are on the side of charging them in cases like that. You’ll be hard pressed to find one Assemblymember who think that this is okay.”
AB 2655 is set to be one of the few non-coronavirus related bills to be moved up for the Public Safety Committee hearing. The hearing itself is expected to begin at 10 AM on March 19th at the Capitol Building.